Commercial satellite imagery revealed an extensive nuclear missile site in central China with nearly sixty launch pads for medium-range missiles capable of striking Russia as well.
The images from Google Earth show different types of launch pads, command and control facilities, and missile deployment equipment at a large facility in downtown Delingha, said Hans Kristensen, a researcher with the Federation of American Scientists.
"The US government often highlights China's deployment of new mobile missiles as a concern but keeps the details secret, so the discovery of the deployment area provides the first opportunity for the public to better understand how China operates its mobile ballistic missiles," he wrote.
The find comes only two weeks after the discovery of a secret Chinese nuclear submarine base on Hainan Island in South China Sea, also using commercial satellite imagery and published by Jane's Intelligence Review.
The latest images were posted along with Kristensen's analysis on the website of the Federation of American Scientists. Kristensen said the imagery revealed missile launch sites along a 275-kilometer (170 miles) stretch of highway leading from the city of Delingha through Da Qaidam to Mahai in the northern part of Qinghai province.
Thirty-six launch pads were arrayed in three strings extending north of the highway and west of Delingha. Another 22 launch pads were detected in an area running west of Da Qaidam to Mahai, according to Kristensen's analysis.
"From these launch pads DF-21 missiles would be within range of southern Russia and northern India (including New Delhi), but not Japan, Taiwan or Guam," he wrote. DF-21s are medium range solid fuel missiles that have been replacing China's older DF-3 and DF-4 liquid fuel missiles.
Kristensen said the imagery shows what appear to be a buried command and control bunker marked by antennas at each of the deployment area. In downtown Delingha, images show what appear to be the headquarters of a missile brigade base with tent-like structures of identical size and design as structures previously detected on DF-21 launch pads.
An open area near the base contained what appeared to be camouflaged nets over unidentified vehicles, he said.